Engawa

Engawa busy on a Friday night
Engawa, busy on a Friday night

I’ve been here a couple of times and it has never disappointed me. Very tasty food, great presentation and my favourite aspect: their bento and omasake selections are varied enough that you don’t have to think and also you don’t regret trusting their chefs to ‘order for you’.

Last Friday, we had the omasake dinner–the small version. There was a bigger version with two or three more dishes but we already were super full with this, so I don’t even want to imagine what it would have happened if we had gone for the ‘mega’ version!

Sashimi on a leaf
Sashimi on a leaf

This was the starter. It was really yummy. Here’s a close up so you can see the actually edible thing:

Sashimi on a leaf (close up)
Sashimi on a leaf (close up)

It was such a delicious combination of flavours – the fish, the subtle dressing, the radish, the crispy herbs…!

Then we had one of their (as always) beautiful bento boxes. Sauces on the bottom right, various things in the different compartments. It was all so yummy and fresh. And we were already starting to feel a touch full…

The appetiser
The appetiser

But we had yet to get to the main course!

It was a steak on a VERY hot, sizzling stone, plus salad, rice and miso soup. You could still turn the veggies and steak around to cook to your liking, if you wanted to.

Main course
Main course

We went for a classic companion drink: Asahi beers! Although the staff kept pouring them in a brutal way that built up a lot of foam and I was getting very annoyed by that 😠

This was fantastic and great value for money in Central London—albeit SO BUSY! Forget any idea of ‘quiet romantic date restaurant’… at least not on a Friday night! 😝

Engawa
2 Ham Yard,
London W1D 7DT

Blood oranges

We got these from Natoora at the Spa Terminus market. They’re Sicilian and so very nicely sweet and citric!

Blood oranges
Blood oranges

I must have been five years old the first time I encountered a blood orange “in the wild”. I was tasked with helping to make orange juice at home, and blood oranges are not always very obviously bloody from the outside. When I cut the orange and I found the “blood” I immediately panicked, thinking I had cut myself!

I started yelling and calling for help. Obviously my mum was very alarmed, but she quickly determined that it was all fine; I hadn’t cut myself and the orange was “normal”, but I still drank that juice with lots of suspicions 🤔

Borreta

Borreta
Borreta

This is a very traditional winter stew from the Serra de Mariola area—a  crossroads of mountain ranges on the edge between Valencia and Alicante provinces.

Not even a century ago, this area was not very well communicated: picture uphill and downhill winding roads perched on the deep cut carved by a seasonal river over centuries, or a really strenuous hike uphill to then downhill and uphill and downhill again, a few times (if you didn’t like the other road, per chance).

So the natives of this particular corner of Spain developed very unique and distinctive signature dishes. It’s quite unusual for many of them to be featured in restaurants outside of their birthplace, let alone international restaurants which are more keen on popular dishes such as paella or tapas.

But they are so tasty, comforting… and cheap!

This recipe is adapted from the recipe in the “La cuina de la serra de Mariola” book (by Mila Valls and Ana Valls), which is a fantastic collection of local recipes and anecdotes.

Ingredients (for two people)

  • Four cloves of garlic
  • One onion
  • A medium sized potato
  • A red pepper (or dry pepper if you can find it)
  • ~100 gr of fresh cod
  • A good bunch of Swiss chard (or spinach, up to your preferences and availability-the traditional is Spinach)
  • Two eggs
  • Olive oil

Preparation

This dish is very easy to make: we will slice and chop ingredients, add them to a deep pot. Then we will add water and bring it to a boil. But let’s not anticipate…

Chop the onion somewhat finely:

Chopped onions
Chopped onions

And same for the pepper. Actually, the tradition is to use dried red pepper, of the sort you would use to preserve the summer harvest so you could use it when the cold weather came, but funnily I haven’t been able to find them yet in London (I have a hunch they might sell them in Spanish deli shops). Maybe ‘sweet chilli’ could work, but I haven’t chanced the risk of making my borreta taste Mexican! So I’m just using sweet red pepper.

Chopped red pepper
Chopped red pepper

Then peel the garlic cloves. I didn’t slice them because I wanted their flavour in the stew, but I didn’t want to eat them. So the idea is to remove them once cooked, but before serving (except if you forget like me and end up serving your spouse a bowl with three garlic cloves 😅).

Peeled garlic cloves
Peeled garlic cloves

Peel the potato and dice it. Not too big not too thin either… somehow like cubes, so they don’t break too much when cooking.

Peeled and diced potato
Peeled and diced potato

Wash the chard—wash it a lot! They often have so much soil on it!

The best way I have found to clean the chard well is to submerge it in water in a bowl and let it dissolve the soil and etc, then give it a good shake, drain, and wash again (maybe a few times, until you see no soil or sand come off).

Chopped Swiss Chard
Chopped Swiss Chard

Then wash and add a tiny little bit of cod to the pot. This is a 100g fillet:

Cod fillet
Cod fillet

This fillet came with skin (on the other side, which is why you can’t see it). I tried removing it before cooking but it’s impossible–it’s just too attached. The solution is to cook it with the skin, and remove it with something sort of blunt, like a spoon, when it starts to come off. Then it might break down further, giving the soup a great ‘fishy’ taste.

Once all the above ingredients are in the pot, add enough water to cover all of them and then a bit more, depending on how much you like soups. This is meant to be a soupy stew. Add a dash of olive oil. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil.

When it starts boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Sometime around 15 minutes is a good time to check if the fish skin is coming off, as described above.

When things are pretty cooked: potato pieces are breaking down nicely, the fish is visually hard to spot, etc, it’s time to do two more things:

  1. check for salt, correcting if needed, and the…
  2. add the eggs!

Crack one egg per person, and carefully place it over the stew. Perhaps bring the heat up to boil them faster! Here they are right after being placed on the stew:

Eggs dropped on the stew
Eggs dropped on the stew

And here they are after cooking and setting. The food is ready!

Borreta, ready to eat!
Borreta, ready to eat!

To serve, use deep bowls. Take the eggs first, then “top up” with as much stew as you want.

Random trivia

Borreta means ‘fluff’. I want to think it is because of the fish being dissolved and adding some ‘fluff’ to the dish.

Each time I ask for fillets like this at the fishmongers they ask me something along the lines of “is this ALL you wanted?” or “this is just A SMALL FILLET, you know?”. Yes, yes, I know. I just want a tiny bit of flavour on my dish, thank you very much, judgmental fishmonger 🙄

The original recipe calls for dry salted cod, which I have, again, been unable to find in London. I haven’t really tried very hard, to be honest. Possibly a Portuguese deli would set me up pretty quickly, but for now, I’m happy with the fresh cod! If you use dry salted cod you need to de-salt it first by rehydrating it in water, and changing the water a few times. It’s a bit tricky in that way…

Shops selling dry fish and other dried goods used to be a very common sight in my town about 30 years ago. They were named “salazones” (“salted goods”) or “ultramarinos” (“from overseas”, because they also sold exotic products from far away… like big fish!). I really dreaded walking past one of them, as the smell was SO ABSOLUTELY INTENSE I could barely withstand it. Often I’d devise plans such as holding the breath, or sticking my nose inside my clothes, or covering my nose with my hands… and nothing would work as the smell was just unbeatable.

Polpetto

Flower bunch

A bit of a belated post as I left this in the drafts but forgot to finish it before we went on holidays last month!

This is my inaugural post on the Places to eat category: sharing places where we (unsurprisingly) like to eat!

In need of comforting food in a cosy environment? Polpetto is a safe bet… specially during these cold spells we’re having lately.

  

Calamari and meatballs…

… Broccoli and pine nuts salad, potatoes with olives, gnocchi…

The syrup chunks on this crême were a touch too thick for my tastes, though!

This polenta cake was very nice.

Not pictured: their negronis, which beat their aperol spritz. Always go negroni here.

Polpetto
http://www.polpetto.co.uk/
11 Berwick Street, London W1F 0PL

Allioli is not mayonnaise with garlic

Not real allioli

The Caterer from Hell strikes again, this time attempting to “cook” allioli.

Except they basically mashed industrial mayonnaise with garlic, and called it aioli, and they still went and slept at night instead of turning in bed every half an hour, haunted by the terrible horrors they had awakened.

Ingredients aside, the texture looks wrong, with all those lumps. It looks off. And it didn’t smell of garlic at all. Good allioli packs such a punch you can smell it from a distance.

  • Grossness level: 7/10. Why do they keep pretending they know what they are doing?
  • Offense amount: 8/10. It has mayonnaise. An AMERICAN mayonnaise. There’s nothing Spanish about this.
  • Would I give it a go? NO!!!!!!!!! I’d rather not get food poisoning, thank you very much.